The Best Way to Transfer Large Files (4GB+) from your Mac to PC (or PC to Mac)
Transferring a large file from a Mac to PC or PC to Mac can be really frustrating. The Mac OS doesn’t support NTFS and Windows doesn’t support HFS+. Both support FAT32 but there is a 4GB file limit which is where the headache comes. Even with a sufficiently large 8GB, 16GB, 32GB USB memory stick or SD memory card or even with a huge multi-terabyte external hard drive, you just can’t copy the file over.
Searching through the internet to solve this problem gave me a lot of incorrect or complicated solutions. A few of these are:
- Using a large usb memory stick or external hard disk drive with NTFS, HFS or Ext2, Ext3 or Ext4 (Linux file formats) that supports large (4GB+) files.
- Transferring the file using FTP or SSH
- Installing a driver or software that enables you to read NTFS files on your Mac, or Mac OS Extended (HFS+) volumes on your PC
- Using a direct connection with a crossover LAN cable
All of these so-called solutions, most of which are methods to get around the NTFS/HFS+ file system incompatibility, are either time consuming, complicated or require some sort of paid software installed.
However, there are 2 relatively simple, and free, ways to solve this.
1. Memory Card or External Hard Drive Formatted with ExFAT
The first solution to transfer large files between Macs and PCs is to use a memory card or external drive formatted into exFAT, a file system created by Microsoft that is compatible on both Macs (Snow Leopard 10.6.5 and above) and PCs (Windows XP SP2 and above).
[ Note : You must install Windows update KB955704 to properly access exFAT drives in Windows XP ]
To create an exFAT drive, you need to select exFAT as the file system when formatting (or erasing on Mac) your drive. In Windows, you can easily do this by using “FORMAT x: /FS:exfat /q” in the command prompt (where x: is the external drive) or by selecting exFAT instead of NTFS using the new disk wizard.
For those who are worried if exFAT can handle your huge file or not, the maximum file size is 16EB (that’s giga, tera, peta and then exa), with 512TB being the recommended maximum file size in Windows XP. So, yes, your 500GB file will fit in an exFAT drive.
[Additional Note : I've noticed exFAT recognition between the Mac and PC isn't always consistent. If your Mac formatted exFAT drive is not recognized in Windows, you will probably have to assign a drive letter to it. (please ask if you need further instructions on this) Try #2 if you can't get the drive recognized properly]
2. Over a Network (LAN) Connection
When you don’t have a memory card or external drive ready, or if exFAT just doesn’t like you, you can still transfer files by sharing a folder on your PC (make it writable) and copy the file using Finder on your Mac. Instructions are as follows:
Create a shared folder on your Windows PC. Make sure you make it writable for everyone.
To connect to your shared PC folder from your Mac, open Finder and select Go -> Connect to Server in the menu and type in smb://[ipaddress of shared folder computer].
Type in your Windows username and password to connect to your computer and start copying your file over. As you can see below, my Mac is happily copying a 7.25GB file over to my Windows shared folder.
This file transfer was performed using Wi-Fi but the fastest way would be to connect using a physical LAN line at 100Mbps or 1Gbps.
Once the file transfer is complete, I recommended that you disable the shared folder for security reasons, especially if the folder is not password protected.
3. LAN and Over the Internet: Skype File Transfer
I’m adding one more simple method to transfer large files between Mac and PCs. The answer is Skype. If you think the 2 methods above are complicated, get your buddy (or your alt account) and yourself on Skype, select your buddy in the contact list and go to Conversation -> Send -> File and select the file you want to send. The transfer will start when your buddy accepts the file. This will work for both internal LAN transfers and also over the internet, all for free.
Also check out my other article: How To Send Large Files (Larger Than 2GBs) Over the Internet for Free
Let me know how this works for you. If you have a better method, please do let me know!